Friday, June 15, 2007

Too Many Books, Too Little Space

I reached the breaking point almost eight years ago, and I imagine that many of you have also reached it: every new book I bring into the house can only end up on my bookshelves if I remove a book that's already there. That means, in effect, that for every book I add to my collection, another one ends up in one of the closets where it immediately falls to a sort of "second class" status in my home library.

Well, if it makes you feel any better, according to the 5 Towns Jewish Times it's not just home libraries that have reached that tipping point.
“Unfortunately, we are forced to weed out our books every month to make room on the shelves for new ones,” says George Trepp, director of the Long Beach Public Library. “This is very frustrating for our staff, who love books and want to share as many of them as possible with the community.”

The discarded books are forwarded to a book reseller, Better World Books, with a percentage of the sales coming back to the library. Those books that are not sold are donated to a few different charities such as Books for Africa, National Center for Family Literacy, and Room to Read.

“It’s disheartening to the board of trustees, the library staff and the Long Beach community that we can no longer keep or expand our book selection,” says Mr. Trepp. “We are close to one book bought equaling one book being taken off the shelf.”
Ten years ago, the library underwent a significant expansion. “We knew going into the last renovation that we would outgrow the space again and we hope to find a solution to this problem,” says Mr. Trepp. “Weeding out our books is the library’s last resort.”
I suppose that I shouldn't be at all surprised to read about something like this. After all, even the largest and best funded of libraries has a finite supply of shelf space in which to place its books. And, of course, modern libraries are feeling the shelf space crunch even more these days because so much of their space is taken up by DVDs, VHS tapes, CDs and books on cassette tapes. Book weeding is something that all libraries, including most home libraries, needs to do on a regular basis. There's not much point in keeping out-of-date computer books, discredited old science books, and the like on anyone's shelves when space is at such a premium. But I do find it a little sad that so many worthy, but out-of-print, books are being culled from the one place that most readers expect to find them.

On the other hand, there is a little touch of good news hidden in this situation. The cause of this whole problem is the fact that so many thousands of new books are being published around the world every year. That's a good thing.
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